Remembering Glee's Cory Monteith

By Cory Barker

Jul 16, 2013

It's been a few days since we learned of Glee star Cory Monteith's death, but I'm still pretty wrecked about the whole thing. No one knows for sure what the cause was (update: autopsy results have confirmed that Monteith died of a "mixed drug toxicity" of heroin and alcohol), and I certainly didn't know Monteith personally, but he seemed like a good guy who tried to overcome issues with substance abuse. The loss is and will continue to be so much greater for his family and friends, but it's certainly been hard not to go through old clips of Glee and get really, really bummed out as a fan. 

Like many of you, I've had a complicated relationship with Glee in its four years on the air. I fell hard for the show in the beginning, grew frustrated with it in Season 2, and followed it show from more of a distance in Seasons 3 and 4 so that it couldn't repeatedly break my heart and/or piss me off. However, throughout my roller-coaster experience of watching Glee, Monteith's performance as Finn has been a constant. Despite being handed some problematic material from time to time (along with everyone else in the cast, if we're being fair), Monteith helped Finn become one of the more fully realized characters on the show. 

While Rachel and Kurt get to embody what it means to you know that you're a star stuck in a small town, Finn's story has always been more realistic, and oftentimes more interesting. He's the small-town guy with some talent and some dreams, but no plan, or confidence that anything good could happen. Monteith brought him to life, and as a result, Finn defined the show's inner melancholy, something that often stood out amid its typical whiplash-y emotional highs and lows. And from the beginning, we understood who Finn was: He was us in high school, or at least somebody we knew in high school. To bring that kind of relatability to a role that also turns you into a "teen" heartthrob is not easy, but Monteith almost always pulled it off.

Finn's struggle to find himself—as a student, as a son, as a brother-in-law, as a friend, etc.—permeated all of Glee's stories. His relationships with Rachel, Kurt, Mr. Schue, and his mother were some of the show's best, and sheer lunacy aside, Finn's return to McKinley as New Directions coordinator worked because Monteith always knew how to play up Finn's shaky—but effective—leadership. Much like the character he portrayed, Monteith was never the best actor or singer on the show, but he was a damn good stabilizing center. He could do just about anything Glee asked of him—well, except for dance.

Moving forward, it's challenging to even begin to imagine what the heck Glee will do to write Finn out of the show. With situations like this one, we can never totally trust Ryan Murphy and company to do anything sane. He and Ian Brennan could very well come up with an amazing way to pay tribute to Monteith and give Finn the exit he deserves. But it's just as likely that they'll swing for the fences and create something overwrought—or, worst of all, offensive. The show already has a half-baked out with Finn's Season 4 departure for college and as a victim of PTMD (Post Traumatic Murphy Disorder), most of me wishes they'd just let it all go. Yet there's no way that Finn's relationships with the important people in his life will ever come to a satisfying resolution. That's nowhere near the tragedy that Monteith's real-life death is, of course, but for a show that's already on the ropes creatively, losing such a solid rock of humanity is a tragedy, too.

Monteith's Best Glee Performances

But for now, I'd rather not worry about what Murphy may or may not do. Instead, let's just keep remembering all the great performances Cory Monteith brought to Glee in his four years on the show. You'll probably see a lot of lists and slideshows about his best musical performances, and rightfully so; there are some truly wonderful ones (I'm partial to "Jesse's Girl" from "Laryngitis" because duh). But I'd like to focus a little more on Monteith's acting on, which was just as good, if not better, than his vocals. Here are five episodes that he's great in; feel free to share your own in the comments.

"Sectionals" (Season 1, Episode 13): It was clear almost from the jump that keeping Finn in the dark regarding the paternity of Quinn's baby was a stupid choice, but Monteith somehow made it all almost worth it when Finn found out the truth. He also shared a great scene with Matthew Morrison in this episode. 

"Duets" (Season 2, Episode 4): I'm kind of cheating here because this is still the best episode of Glee to date, but it was lovely showcase for Monteith and Lea Michele's more playful, comedic chemistry, which was just as electric as their dramatic work. 

"Goodbye" (Season 3, Episode 22): If you've seen even a few episodes of Glee, I dare you to watch the final scene between Finn and Rachel at the train station and not tear up. The show went in a lot of stupid directions during its first three seasons, but again, Monteith (and Michele) made it seem like this is what all 60+ installments had been building to, and that all those directions were worth it. 

"The Break-Up" (Season 4, Episode 5): The expected, wrenching conclusion to what began in "Goodbye," but expecting Finn and Rachel to split didn't make the event any less moving. Monteith was always great at portraying Finn when he was confused about his future, and never was he more so than here. 

"Dynamic Duets" (Season 4, Episode 8): The best episode of the "new" version of the show, with a really solid story for Finn as New Will. The superhero conceit is pure Finn: a little sloppy, goofy as heck, but warm and effective. Almighty Treble Clef y'all! 

What are your favorite Cory Monteith Glee moments?

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  • matheny Jul 22, 2013

    Furt. Finn at his best, and Glee at its best. Grilled Cheesus, for Finn at his dumbest (which is a very, very good thing). And really, who can forget one of the most cringeworthy moments in the series, or quite frankly, all of scripted network TV, Finn singing "Having My Baby" to Quinn's parents?
    Actually, one of my favorite Finn moments is in the pilot, where he asks if they have Sour Patch Kids, a shout-out to his previous role in the Sour Patch Kids-bankrolled Kyle XY.

  • Kathy63 Jul 19, 2013

    We all Love you Cory and i am really going to miss you ...RIP

  • Hauntme1 Jul 18, 2013

    i loved his cover of Jessie's girl & i loved most of his performances in season 1

  • snow1968 Jul 18, 2013

    We really loved watching every show and he was the best actor. We sorry to hear what happened to him. Now we know that the show will not be the same without him.

  • mezza_1983 Jul 17, 2013

    For all those that don't know, TMZ has "sources" that are saying that Cory hadn't taken drugs since he got help and went to rehab in April and that he may have taken the same dose he did before he got clean and that because his body was clean, it wasn't able to handle the amount he took :(

    Now E-online has posted a story where they've interviewed a drug and rehabilitation expert who says that for heroin, he should have been in rehab longer than he was and that Cory may have been an 'expert' at fooling those around him into thinking he was better when he wasn't. Can you imagine how guilty that would make his family, his friends and Lea feel? They would all be wondering if there was more they could have done.

    It's so sad. I still can't believe this.

    I think I've said this in a previous post but there is a lot of hateful and nasty comments being said about him. We must continually remind ourselves and each other of the good he did and not let it be overshadowed by the illness that took him. How he died doesn't change the fact he was a good person.

  • Lady_Jay Jul 17, 2013

    I read about his death yesterday when you put up this article about remembering him and I was so frkn shocked. I have been googling it for an hour last night until I got the Breaking News that his autopsy report is released. Once I've read that he died of drugs/alcohol and I learned (for the first time!!!) that he's been struggling with his addiction ever since he was a teenager I didn't know how to feel about this. And I still don't know...
    I can't believe he died and I somehow don't want to believe it but it's true and I (we all) have to deal with it. But the cause of his death makes it harder to deal with it. Now I don't know whether to be like angry at him for doing drugs...

    Rest in peace

  • irehawk20 Jul 17, 2013

    I don't know if this situation would become "FINN-ished" or what?

  • jordan_griff Jul 17, 2013

    How can we forget Grilled Cheesus?! Possibly my favorite Finn Hudson moment. With that being said, you really were great Cory.

  • ryanmcclintic Jul 17, 2013

    I stopped watching glee at season 3 episode 19 so I don't know what modern Finn was like. I really enjoyed the show just better shows captured my attention once Glee started into the post sectionals graduation phase. Season 1 and 2 though are still some of the best TV I've seen in years. Cory was a really talented singer and good actor who played a character several years younger then he actually was. It's a shame the fame pushed him into substance abuse. 31 is very young but shows how fast and easy celebs can get their hands on drugs. I hope the show writes his character Finn off the show nicely hopefully not making him die

  • lalaforever1989 Jul 17, 2013

    Sadly he's been battling addiction since his teens according to him.

  • Kevinfour Jul 17, 2013

    It has been five days now, but it still hurts so bad. I just can't believe/accept it. He was so young, so much to live for. The good ones always die young. The fact that it was from a heroin/alcohol combination, doesn't change the fact that he was a great person.

    This is the first time some sort of hero of mine has died, and even though it's someone I've never met, twenty years from now this will still hurt. Rest in Peace, Cory. May you fly with the angels and one day see Lea again.

  • Devon39219 Jul 22, 2013

    I feel the same way about Aaliyah

  • QMargo Jul 17, 2013

    I agree with every word you said. I feel sick when I read some people's comments which are rude and insincere. It is like how can you say that? I know his death came following him taking drugs willingly, but that does not change what I think of him....a poor soul that we could not save. I am not a deeply religious person but still seeing how many people die at such a young age from drugs while we live in a century full of technology and progress....and yet we do not do enough to save these people. My personal thoughts are that the help Cory received both at the rehab centre and from loved ones was not enough..I am not blaming it on them, don;t get me wrong, I just mean to say that I think he did not get enough help or maybe it was too late for him to get it because nobody knew how deeply this addiction was. Because he looked happy, full of love with Lea..and that is what kills me personally...that this tragic death just happened...Like boom, he is gone. Horrible feeling.

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